Longview officials receiving water complaints from wider segment of city

2013-09-16T23:35:00Z 2014-08-15T08:58:05Z Longview officials receiving water complaints from wider segment of cityBy Amy M.E. Fischer / The Daily News Longview Daily News
September 16, 2013 11:35 pm  • 

Less than two months after the city of Longview spent $36,000 to dislodge corrosion from aging water mains, citizens are complaining again that their water tastes bad.

But now, the water quality complaints aren’t just from people in the Baltimore Street area, where 10 tons of an ice slurry were pumped through the water lines in late July in a new pipe-clearing process called “ice pigging.” The city now is receiving five to 15 calls per day from residents of downtown, the Old West Side, the New West Side and the Robbins Addition neighborhoods, Public Works Director Jeff Cameron said.

The ice pigging procedure was “a worthwhile effort,” he said last week. “It did work for a little while, but it apparently wasn’t the solution for the water quality issues that we have going on.”

The complaints about metallic-tasting, yellowish, smelly water began coming in shortly after the city switched its water source in January from the Cowlitz River to groundwater wells that tap into the deep aquifer.

“We were not anticipating this volume of problems ... but we knew there was going to be a transition period,” Cameron said. “The water coming out of the treatment plant is still very high quality.”

Although objectionable, chlorine and metallic odors and taste are usually not a health threat, according to the city.

City officials have speculated that rust and corrosion in the pipes is being dislodged because the water flow changed directions when the city stopped pumping its water from the Cowlitz River. They also believe iron nodules in the pipes are dissolving because the groundwater’s chemistry is different from the river water.

For a short-term fix, the city has been flushing the mains once or twice a week, and citywide water flushing will resume Sunday night. Replacing the city’s old cast iron and galvanized water mains, installed 80 or 90 years ago, would solve the problem, according to city staff. But at a whopping $270 per linear foot, replacing all those lines would cost tens of millions of dollars.

The city is paying a consultant $29,800 to solve the water quality problem and to recommend ways to soften the water pumped from the Mint Farm’s wells. Citizens also are complaining about the well water being noticeably harder than that of the river water.

The Mint Farm groundwater scores a 91 on a hardness scale that measures naturally occurring calcium and magnesium minerals. By contrast, the river water rates a 27. Water rated 0-60 is soft, moderate water is 61-120, hard water is 121-180 and very hard water is anything higher than 181.

Hard water can leave white deposits on glassware, utensils and vehicles, cause dry skin or hair, and leave more soap scum on household surfaces, according to the city.

Confluence Engineering Group, LLC, of Seattle is expected to have a recommendation for solving the water woes by early December, and the City Council will vote on how to proceed. Installing a water softening system at the Mint Farm water plant could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and likely would drive up utility rates. If the council takes no action, city water customers could buy water softening systems for their homes and businesses, Cameron said. However, home-based systems involve using sodium, which can be problematic for customers with salt sensitivity.

In the meantime, fed-up citizens have started a Facebook page called “Citizens Against Longview’s New Water Supply.”

The city switched to a groundwater system because that was much cheaper than rebuilding the old water plant on Fisher’s Lane, which was wearing out because of the abrasive effect of volcanic silt in the river.

Copyright 2015 Longview Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(18) Comments

  1. crowsfoot
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    crowsfoot - September 17, 2013 9:13 am
    These were all known issues from the beginning. Analysis was made by professionals and they knew the water was going to be hard and mineral loaded. Hidden under the rug, didn't think it would be of concern. Reverse flow in old pipes knocks stuff loose how surprising. Stop investigating the coal dock for a minute and check out the cities manipulations. Scammed by the city.
  2. No Nickname
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    No Nickname - September 17, 2013 10:14 am
    You shouldn't have changed the supply to begin with. The cheapest solution is not always the best and begins to nickel and dime you. The water is not high quality Cameron and water is supposed to be H2O not chemically modified enough to dissolve iron. Your high priced consultants didn't see this coming? Yeah right.
  3. No Nickname
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    No Nickname - September 17, 2013 10:19 am
    We deserve the quality we always had - we are paying a lot more now for worse quality water and the county limits residents and those on Beacon Hill water have taxation without representation!
  4. ProudKelsoMom
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    ProudKelsoMom - September 17, 2013 11:41 am
    I've lived in Lexington for the last 18 yrs & never had a problem with our water until Kelso started getting their water from the Mint Farm. All of my glassware has been ruined with a white film that doesn't come off and after washing our vehicles we now have white spots. We have been told to contact Beacon Hill Sewer Dist. & complain. They are documenting all complaints. I'm extremely upset about this & so are a lot of other people. BHSD (360) 636-3860
  5. Euphonium
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    Euphonium - September 17, 2013 1:38 pm
    How does Councilman Jensen deal with this new H2O when washing his prized classic cars? How does he avoid the Calcium deposits after rinsing the car? How does the rest of the council's family tolerate this diminished quality of water? My proposal is to go back to the river supply and pay accordingly what it takes to maintain it for that will be cheaper than trying to convert Liver into steak.
  6. hippi freak
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    hippi freak - September 17, 2013 2:19 pm
    I see a new water treatment plant on the Cowlitz in the future.
  7. No Nickname
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    No Nickname - September 17, 2013 2:53 pm
    @Euphonium he probably washes them in Kelso. I would also bet they all had water softeners installed (except maybe Wallin - just so he can say he didnt) and get bottled water delivery. I am sure Sierra Springs delivers at city hall as well. This whole situation is sad. Why would they want people to suffer and get sick when we were paying the premium anyway?
  8. Longview86
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    Longview86 - September 17, 2013 8:20 pm
    Already lost a dishwasher and washer to this water problem and now having problems with a 2nd dishwasher. Our water once smelled like chlorine but now it smells like sulfur. It's sickening. It has ruined dishes, you can't wash your car, it has ruined bathroom tile, and no matter how safe they say it is...NOBODY I know will drink the stuff. Officials keep changing stuff that don't need to be changed. How much did we spend on traffic revisions that didn't NEED to be changed? The water is sickening
  9. subieman
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    subieman - September 17, 2013 10:33 pm
    Wait!!! Hot water heaters are next. You are actually supposed to flush once a year believe it or not... Calcium deposits will DESTROY these soon enough... Shame on Longview and their " consultants"... What a waste of tax payers $$$.
  10. getinformed
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    getinformed - September 18, 2013 11:08 am
    It's possible that the city's switch to well water is related to the proposed Millennium coal terminal. The city of Ferndale where the proposed Gateway coal terminal would be located switched from their river water after 40 years to well water too. They also are having issues with excessive hardness, etc. They are having to add a water softener system to the city's water treatment plant for up to 2.1M. They also had to pay an additional consultant 30K to find a fix like your city has to.
  11. No Nickname
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    No Nickname - September 18, 2013 2:01 pm
    How would they be linked?
  12. getinformed
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    getinformed - September 18, 2013 5:32 pm
    Both cities have huge proposed coal terminals. Both decided to switch their water source from river water to well water approx. 4years before permit submittal. Millennium won't say how much water they will need or what source/s, but Gateway's contract for river water is for 5.33 million gallons per day until year 2042, and their throughput is only 4 million tons more than Millennium. You might want to read an article about this in Whatcom Watch paper:
  13. getinformed
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    getinformed - September 18, 2013 5:54 pm
    No Nickname - I meant to reply to your comment but somehow posted it as a new comment, so please check the more recent posts for my reply to your question here. There are many coincidences regarding water and the 2 proposed coal terminals so in general that seems odd to me. I hope you have time to read the article which has a lot of detail. I should disclose that I wrote the article since I am recommending it as information on your question.

    getinformed/S. Robson
  14. Oracle
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    Oracle - September 23, 2013 8:44 am
    "High quality water coming out of the treatment plant" doesn't mean a thing when it looks, smells, and tastes like rust coming out of your faucets and destroys appliances and fixtures. 36K wasted on one section of line and another 29K for a yet another consultant to tell us that the water sucks. We already know that the water sucks. More city incompetence and arrogance. This one isn't going to go away as much as Jeff Cameron wishes that it would.
  15. lookabout
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    lookabout - September 25, 2013 10:28 am
    The whole mint farm area will be a super-fund clean up site one day. There is lots of really toxic stuff in that whole area. So our Leaders, pick that spot for our water supply, spend millions developing the new H2O supply, then say they need millions more to fix the water and pipes. The sad thing is we had good water. Now we have bad water, higher bills, and it will get worse. Health issues will arise over time. Will it be your kid or my kid, or?? That gets sick first??
  16. lookabout
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    lookabout - September 25, 2013 10:35 am
    Our city leaders can not even keep the grounds and toilets maintained at the lake. There is no money----but we spend millions forcing this new water system onto the people. I wouldn't mind the higher rates, the hard water, the damage to my appliances, my car, the stench, the color--like dark tea, if I knew it wouldn't hurt my family. But if it's coming out of the ground in Mint Farm then it is some nasty stuff. That whole area is a super-fund site or will be in time.
  17. britney
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    britney - September 28, 2013 10:04 am
    Are our officials corrupt?
  18. britney
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    britney - September 28, 2013 10:23 am
    Are our officials corrupt? We have them to make good choices for our people.
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